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Cowboys played their perfect match

Hear from the Fiesta Bowl's winners and losers.
Hear from the Fiesta Bowl's winners and losers.
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Thayer Evans

Senior College Football writer Thayer Evans previously wrote for The New York Times and Houston Chronicle, as well as contributed to The Economist, USA Today, The Washington Post and more. Follow him on Twitter.

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GLENDALE, Ariz.

You would have thought more Oklahoma State players would be touting what at one time they thought they deserved.

But after Monday night’s wild 41-38 overtime victory against No. 4 Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl — in which the third-ranked Cowboys escaped with a win only after Cardinal kicker Jordan Williamson missed three field goals, including a 35-yarder on the final play of regulation and 43-yarder in overtime — most were realistic about the obvious.

Oklahoma State never deserved to play in the BCS title game, which they campaigned for after routing rival Oklahoma to close the regular season last month. 

Even defensive coordinator Bill Young admitted, “We’re very fortunate to just be where we are.”

Of course Oklahoma State is, just as it has been all season in winning its first Big 12 title in a conference whose traditional powers struggled this year.

It’s quite the accomplishment that the Cowboys finally beat Oklahoma for the first time since 2002. Just like it is that they won a school-record 12 games and claimed a win in their first BCS bowl appearance, despite being outgained in total offensive yards by Stanford 590-464.

But the best thing that happened to Oklahoma State this season actually was what it considers its worst: the 37-31 double-overtime loss at Iowa State in November. That embarrassing but inevitable Chokie State moment cost the Cowboys control of their own BCS title game fate.

Thankfully, it also gave us the best possible BCS title game matchup available this season, with the rematch of top-ranked LSU and No. 2 Alabama on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

Because if you thought the 9-6 final score was boring the first time those two teams met, you would have begging to see it again after watching Oklahoma State get blown out by LSU.

OSU would have had no chance against the bigger, stronger, faster Tigers. The Cowboys thought it was tough enough stopping Stanford’s physical, ball-control offense, which had the ball for more than two-thirds of the game.

LSU’s stable of talented tailbacks would have pounded Oklahoma State’s porous run defense worse than a drunk does shots on Bourbon Street. The Tigers’ stingy defense probably wouldn’t have allowed the Cowboys’ run game, which was against the Cardinal, to sniff finishing with positive yardage.

And unlike Stanford, LSU would also have tackled after the catch the one player who could hurt them — OSU wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who was named the Fiesta Bowl’s offensive player of the game with eight catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns in his last collegiate game before announcing he is leaving early for the NFL Draft.

Most of Oklahoma State’s players know all of this. That’s why, after being lucky enough to overcome Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck’s masterful 27-of-31 passing for 347 yards and two touchdowns in his collegiate finale, those like sophomore linebacker Caleb Lavey said he wasn’t haunted by his team’s meltdown at Iowa State, which cost it a trip to the BCS title game.

“I don’t care about that at all,” Lavey said.

Senior safety Markelle Martin even went as far as to say that he would not trade his team’s Fiesta Bowl win for a national championship appearance.

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“We got our trophies,” Martin said.

When Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was asked in his postgame press conference if his program can sustain the success it had this season, he initially replied, “We hope so” before going on to say, “I’m very confident that we have young men in our program that will step up and make plays and will continue to play at a high level.”

If that’s truly the case, Gundy better hope those youngsters have more drive than senior defensive end Jamie Blatnick.

“I’d take this over anything,” Blatnick said after the game.

During the Cowboys' boisterous celebration after beating Stanford, a man in the stands held a banner that read, “Shoulda Been OSU/LSU.”

Delusional OSU fans actually believe that. But the reality is far different.

Just ask most Oklahoma State players.

Tagged: Stanford, LSU, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Bill Young

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